The step-up is a versatile unilateral leg exercise that offers a wide range of variations and a good hip stability challenge.
Place one foot on a box with the other on the floor. Using the raised leg with minimal assistance from the other, push through the whole foot to lift yourself up to a standing position on the box. Step back down into the starting position under control.
The step-up provides unilateral leg strength for better balance and to reduce weaknesses that limit bilateral leg strength, improves hip stability, and stresses knee extension in the most mechanically difficult range.
The step-up can be loaded in a number of ways: barbell on the back, barbell in the clean rack position, one or two dumbbells or kettlebells on the shoulder(s) or hanging in the arm(s), barbell or dumbbell(s) overhead, or sandbag on the shoulders, chest or zercher position.
The down leg can be lifted once standing on the box to bring the knee up for added hip stability work, slow eccentrics can be used, and legs can be repeated or alternated. The step-up can also be done from the side of the box as a lateral step-up.
The step-up can be a primary leg strength exercise for an athlete who’s experienced and strong enough to use it as such, an accessory exercise for improved strength balance and hip stability, or as a rehab exercise (often using assisted slow eccentrics). As a strength exercise with heavier loading, reps from 3-6 can be used; for an accessory or rehab exercise with limited or no weight, reps from 8-15 can be used. Perform the exercise near the end of a workout after more technical and speed-oriented work.